Linda and Sixto Valdez to Share Undocumented Immigration Love Story at Changing Hands Phoenix

The story of Linda and Sixto Valdez is like something out of a movie. In short, Sixto crossed into Arizona from Mexico through a hole in the fence to be with Linda in Tucson. They were married two weeks later – and remain together today.

Linda looks back on this “love story about illegal immigration” in her book Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders, published through Texas Christian University Press in November 2015. “I decided I wanted to write the book and go public because I just saw so much hatred and negativity about undocumented immigrants from Mexico,” she says, “And I thought, ‘That’s not the reality.’”

Sixto was born in Los Suárez in Mexico. Linda’s family was from a suburb of Cleveland and family moved to Arizona in 1964. Linda and her mother went on a trip to Mexico in 1988, where she met Sixto and they talked for days on a train ride through Copper Canyon. They decided to give their relationship a go, and Sixto applied for a visa. He was denied.

That’s when the decision was made for him to travel illegally into the United States, skirting through a hole in the fence near Nogales, Arizona. “He didn’t really like that idea,” says Linda, “He didn’t like it at all.”

Sixto spent the night outside a church in Nogales, and took the bus to Tucson where Linda lived, and called her when he got downtown where she was nearby at work. “When I got that phone call, he basically said, ‘I’m in the plaza, I’m here.’ I had no idea, I was just, ‘Oh, my gosh! Got to go, folks. I’m taking an early lunch,’” she says. “I had no idea he was coming at that particular time.”

They were married two weeks later.

Sixto received a green card later in 1989, and went on to gain a teaching certificate and master’s degree in bilingual learning disabilities at the University of Arizona. He's currently an elementary school teacher in Tucson. Linda is an editorial writer and columnist at the Arizona Republic and She's won the Scripps Howard Walker Stone Award with her work, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2003. Her current work can be found at her blog.

Their 25-year-old daughter, Lucy Valdez, grew up bilingual and with the story of how her parents met.

Eventually, Linda felt the need to write their story. “It started around 2009, 2010, when it was reaching its ugliest peak in Arizona – the anti-immigrant sentiment. That’s about the time that I thought, ‘You know, I have a perspective on this that I really should be sharing.’”

Linda and Sixto will do just that at Changing Hands Bookstore at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 30. Paperback copies of Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders are available for $22.95 before tax.

“We just want to talk a little bit about our story and how it happened, and address some of the misconceptions people have,” she says, “and why I thought writing a love story about undocumented immigration was one way to counter all the ugly rhetoric that’s out there.”

For more information on the event, call 602-274-0067, or visit the Changing Hands website.
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Lauren Cusimano was the Phoenix New Times food editor from 2018 to 2021. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.